Yadier Molina moves up to sixth on all-time hits list for catchers

ST. LOUIS — One of the biggest moments in the Cardinals’ much-needed 4-0 victory over the Giants on Saturday came on a pitch that catcher Yadier Molina purposely called to be out of the strike zone. .

Molina’s veteran genius as a catcher showed in the fifth inning when he purposely called for a pitch that he used to shoot down Joc Pederson to get the Cardinals and starting pitcher Dakota Hudson out of a two-up, two-out quagmire. That play, combined with Molina’s two hits that pushed him past Mike Piazza for sixth all-time on the catchers’ hit list, made this one of the biggest games of the season for the catcher. 39 years old so far.

Another great moment came later. Ryan Helsley once again demonstrated why he has become one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. Helsley, who entered as the owner of the fastest pitch in MLB this season (103.1 mph), used the four-seam pitch to make Brandon Belt roll a late-inning double play and come out of a bases-loaded jam. . In addition to striking out 21 of 35 batters, he has allowed just one hit in nine appearances.

Add it up, and he provided the Cardinals with one of their best performances from start to finish of the season. Add Gold Glover’s two stellar defensive plays Tommy Edman and his fifth-inning home run, and the Cardinals won for the second time in seven games.

In addition, they achieved their sixth shutout.

“If we’re going to go through this stretch where we’ve talked a lot about our offense, we’re going to have to win games like we did,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “We shot well, we played good defense, we made good decisions and we scored three or four runs. There will be a stretch where we will score runs, but you still have to win when you don’t feel good.”

Hudson improved to 14-3 in his career at Busch Stadium.

He marveled at Molina’s prowess in calling the pitch that allowed him to easily take out Pederson and finish off the Giants’ first and third threats.

“The Giants like to be aggressive on base, and I was ready,” said Molina, who scored the Cardinals’ first run of the day after hitting a double off the wall. “We executed that play well and I’m happy about that. That was one of the turning points. I know the Giants like to do that, but I was ready for it.”

Hudson said of Molina’s conscience: “You could see him looking over [toward the Giants dugout], and that’s just part of its genius. He made a great game, the rake guy, and that’s another part of the game of his that you have to enjoy as a baseball fan.”

The Cardinals have enjoyed calling Helsley’s number from the bullpen. Much better after undergoing offseason surgery to repair a left knee, Helsley has become the club’s primary setup man in getting the ball to closer Giovanny Gallegos. Owner of three of the fastest strikeouts of the season, Helsley was signed in the seventh to hopefully get a strikeout with the bases loaded. Instead, Helsley used a fastball after falling behind 3-1 in the count to send Belt to shortstop Edmundo Sosa for a late-inning double play.

“I just wanted to challenge [Belt] because I believe in my stuff,” Helsley said. “I wanted to make him hit me and not hit me. I fell behind 3-1 and wanted to challenge him with the heater. Fortunately, he hit Sosa right. That was huge to get some weak contact and get the doubleheader.”

An inning later, Helsley proved deadly when he walked Austin Slater on four pitches. His first walk of the season ended the right-hander’s personal streak of 22 consecutive retired batters. Ultimately, Helsley’s 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief helped the Cardinals shut down a Giants offense that had scored 49 runs in its six-game winning streak.

“For the most part, I’m just trying to attack guys to the best of my abilities and have them snap at my heels,” Helsley said. “It helped today that the ball was down and [Belt] it was a little late. I don’t get too many ground balls, but I’m thankful for the one I got today because it was important to us.”

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